May 11, 2016 at 7:26 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. men charged with murder of transgender woman

Keith Renier, gay news, Washington Blade

Keith Renier (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery County Department of Police)

Montgomery County police announced on Wednesday that two men were arrested in D.C. on Tuesday on first-degree murder charges for the April 16 murder of 22-year-old transgender woman Keyonna Blakeney in her room at the Red Roof Inn in Rockville, Md.

A police statement identifies the men charged in the case as Arbra Arnie Bethea, 17, of the 4900 block of East Capitol St., S.E., and Keith Christopher Renier, 21, of the 4200 block of Fort Dupont Terrance, S.E.

Both men were being held in the custody of the D.C. Department of Corrections and were awaiting extradition to Montgomery County, the statement says.

“Investigation determined that the victim and several acquaintances were renting rooms at the Red Roof Inn to engage in prostitution,” the police statement says. “During the early morning hours of Saturday, April 16, there was a confrontation between the two suspects and the victim in her hotel room and the victim was stabbed multiple times. She succumbed to her injuries in her room,” it says.

“Detectives developed Bethea and Renier as suspects,” the statement continues. “Warrants were issued for Bethea and Renier, charging them with first-degree murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.”

According to the statement, officers with the Montgomery County Police Repeat Offender Section, with the assistance of U.S. Marshals, arrested Bethea and Renier in Washington, D.C. The statement doesn’t disclose the specific location of the arrests or how detectives identified the two men as suspects.

“Due to the ongoing investigation, no additional information will be released regarding this homicide,” the statement says.

During an April 22 vigil honoring Blakeney’s life outside the Rockville City Council building, trans activists noted that her murder was the ninth murder of a trans or gender non-conforming person in the U.S. so far in 2016, following the murder of at least 22 trans or gender non-conforming people in 2015.

Among those attending the vigil were Blakeney’s father and sister and a large contingent of friends along with police officials and representatives of the Montgomery County and Rockville city governments.

Trans rights activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter, chief operating officer of D.C.’s Casa Ruby community center and one of the organizers of the vigil, said the arrest of the two suspects on Wednesday would provide reassurance to the trans community that authorities were doing all they could to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“My hope is that these arrests and subsequent murder convictions will aid in the path towards closure and restoration for Keyonna’s family, as well as reassure trans people that there are people who are fighting for our lives and safety,” Hunter told the Washington Blade.

“I hope these arrests also send a message to all those who would commit heinous crimes against trans community members that these acts of violence will not go unpunished, “she said.

Keyonna Monroe Blakeney, gay news, Washington Blade

Keyonna Blakeney was found dead in a Rockville hotel room on April 16, 2016. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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